It’s also the sound I make with every clarifying memory from my childhood.
I think I became much more adept at masking later into my teens. I think also it’s because I had to as a coping and camouflage mechanism. Before then I was the precocious child with an astonishing grasp of language who was reading books at every chance. Sure I tried ballet – that lasted two years. I played netball, but as a team sport if you play Goal Keeper there’s not much teaming to do. I did enjoy netball and made a few great friends I still have today.
A memory lambasted into my consciousness this morning. Thanks memory. There’s good memories, there’s ones you don’t dare surface and then there’s the aha memories. This particular one had me feeling so cheugy (uncool and used specifically to annoy my daughter. She says people like me don’t use cheugy). One day she’ll return to the loving daughter I used to know.
The summer before I started high school, our family had a three week vacation on the Gold Coast. We had had other vacations but this was different. It was longer. We were staying in a two bedroom unit. To me it felt almost semi permanent. I remember feeling very excited. I loved the beach and was fearless in the water. I can’t remember if I packed by myself or with Mum’s supervision. It wouldn’t surprise if it was by myself as I was fiercely independent. Something I’m not now.
This was no five star accommodation. We had to take our own bed linen. I’m pretty certain my purple ballerina sheets would have been packed. I may be independent but I was also very attached to all things most pre teens distanced them from. Still loved Barbie and dolls.
I can remember arriving at the units and probably after excitedly exploring I would have unpacked. Although this part is not seared in my memory. What is seared is the reaction from my friend. A very good friend. In fact we are still very close. Her and her family had been holidaying at the place for years. We went on to enjoy years of holidays with her and her family. Making the loveliest memories.
They had arrived from Sydney and I think already spent a week there. We both would have been bursting to see each other and I’m sure she was over to visit pronto. Through her neuronormative lens she took one look at how I’d set up my half of the room I was sharing with my sister. Then pointed out in words I can’t exactly recall (and not at all unkind, but with the directness only youth can carry) told me the doily and figurines and photo frames on the dressing table were really quite over the top.
Let me state again that I really can understand her bewilderment as she has been holidaying at the place for many years. I brought my autistic lens to the vacation. Bringing familiar objects from home was a great and innovative coping mechanism for undiagnosed me. I have never been great with transition. As excited as I was about a holiday at the beach with my bestie, there was an innate sense of reclaiming stability too.
I can remember the figurines. They were two doves and they were the kind that changed colour depending on the weather. A bit of a fad at the time. I’ve always loved doily’s. They still adorn my home.
That’s an aha moment. When I have these moments my autism diagnosis helps me understand more. Sometimes my aha moments are a bit painful or embarrassing but only looking back. I don’t feel embarrassed now. I just feel for the younger me. Maybe I wouldn’t have joined in a treasure hunt at a park that was for a stranger’s birthday. Maybe I would have been able to find ways to transition that would have been helpful. Who knows?
The important thing is that I have the opportunity to reframe these memories and be kinder to that little girl. To not cast my mind back and be so harsh on myself. I was doing the best I could with what I knew. I have heaps of cheugy moments now. The difference is I’m a fan of the cheugy. I seek it out. I embrace it. I recognise and welcome it in others. I have friends who appreciate it in me. So give me a ‘C’
Laura Lewis (c) 2021